Created by mistake, a Frenchman boiled water and forgot to add coffee, when he did add coffee, he found that it stayed on top, and after borrowing a metal screen from a passing Italian man to filter out the grounds, the French press was born (French Press History). The method that the coffee industry uses to evaluate coffee before purchase is called cupping, which is very similar to the french press method. Cupping is very simple: a specific amount of coffee is ground and put in cups, then a specific amount of water is added (usually at a ratio of 17 grams of water to 1 gram of coffee), and left to sit for 4 minutes.
At this time, the ‘crust’ that forms on the top is broken, and the coffee will fall to the bottom of the cup.
When the coffee is cool enough to drink, it can be consumed and compared to other coffees.
The french press takes this only one step further, that step is pressing down the metal screen to keep the grounds from ending up in the cup when it is poured.
The French press is great for a number of reasons. First is cost, while many pieces of coffee equipment can easily run into the hundreds of dollars, a french press can be had for around $25. And since it has remained relatively unchanged since its inception, there is no need to worry that yours will become obsolete in the near future. The second reason is simplicity. With just a french press and a kettle (or another way to boil water), you are just a few easy steps away from a great cup of coffee. It's also a relatively ‘hands off’ method, so for those who do not want to spend a ton of money on a good coffee machine, this doesn’t have many more steps than your standard coffee maker.
There is one downside to consider though, which is the sediment that can show up at the bottom of the cup after you pour. The french press utilizes a metal screen rather than a paper filter that most brew methods use and since this metal filter allows larger particles through than a paper filter, these will settle to the bottom, and give you a ‘muddy’ look when you are finished. There are a few simple ways to combat this. First is not pressing the plunger all the way down, usually just enough to break the surface of the liquid is enough, this will keep you from kicking up all the sediment at the bottom (Hoffmann, 2016). There are also paper filters that you can buy that attach to the plunger and will filter out all the sediment that the metal mesh lets through.
French Press History | The Cooking World. (n.d.). https://www.thecookingworld.
James Hoffmann. (2016, October 2). The Ultimate French Press Technique [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?